• Jack Ward

Streaming triumphs cinema in survey

Published in The Ararat Advocate, Ararat's weekly newspaper published by West Vic News Pty Ltd.


A NIGHT at the cinema is fast becoming a night on the couch according to local teens.


An online survey conducted by the Ararat Advocate has found an increasing tendency amongst youth to ditch the surround sound and popcorn for a more relaxed at-home experience.

PHOTO: Spencer Faulkner, 18, is a movie fanatic and budding filmmaker who is not surprised by the decline in cinema patrons. (Jack Ward/Ararat Advocate)

The survey was sent to the three local secondary schools with 91 responses received from students aged between 10 and 19, who attend Ararat College and Lake Bolac College.


Marian College student and budding filmmaker, Spencer Faulkner, said he was not surprised by the results.


“As time has gone on, everyone's very obsessed with streaming and leaning more towards Netflix and other services,” he said.


Our survey found that 58 per cent of respondents would rather watch movies at home, compared to 42 per cent who would prefer a trip to the cinema.


Since the start of 2021, 40 per cent of respondents said they had watched at least one film at the cinema.


The results come just weeks after the Ararat Advocate reported the iconic Astor Cinema’s struggle to attract patrons after numerous lockdowns and a scarcity of films.


“Compared with two years ago, there is no comparison. Two years ago, we were doing well, people were coming out to see movies and things were good. Then the pandemic struck and it just all stopped,” co-owner Barry Byron said.


The several periods of lockdown, restrictions and a reduction of films being released by production companies is being blamed.


Mr Faulkner said he watches an average of five films each year at the cinema, but that number has lowered in the last 18-months because of a lack of enticing content to consume.


“Last year I only went a couple of times because during COVID, of course, the release date for some films got pushed back a couple of years,” he said.


When asked whether the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns had increased the likelihood of survey respondents to watch movies at home instead of the cinema, 82 per cent said it had.


“I think everyone is sort of starting to make that move over to streaming services because it's just more accessible to people,” Mr Faulkner said.


It seems the most popular streaming service catering to an increase in at-home viewing is Netflix, with 85 per cent of respondents using the platform, among others.


Astor Cinema owners Barry Byron and John O’Meara were also not surprised by the results and said they have seen a sharp decline in teenage patrons since 2018.


Mr Byron said the decision by production companies to shorten the window between cinema and streaming release, or abolishing cinema release altogether, during the pandemic has only added to the issue.


“But they still need the cinema to advertise their movies, people will still watch it again when it's streaming, but we need that window, and that window now is getting smaller and smaller.”


He said companies are reportedly seeing the added financial benefits of cinema release so they are hopeful the cinema window will increase once again when countries such as America and the UK begin to return to normality.


“Everyone will get sick of being locked down and at home, they'll only stay home for a certain time and then they'll come out. That's what I'm hoping,” Mr Byron said.


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